Today, as we travel through Catawba and Yadkin Valleys of North Carolina, we see roadside signs that give directions to this winery or that. This part of North Carolina is composed of Germans, Waldenses, English, Northern Irish and others who would come along later.
All of our nationalities seem to have an enjoyment for wine. They all have their own special recipe for the finest fruit of the vine. People have even been known to uproot our precious scuppernong and muscasdine grape vines and haul them clear across the country, in an attempt to duplicate the delicate taste of North Carolina - but to no avail.
"BITS AND PIECES FROM THE LIFE OF PAT CASWELL CLONINGER"
For the past few years I have been trying to put together my autobiography. In 1996 I purchased my first computer and began attempting to put together the Cloninger and Plonk Families. I attended meetings of the groups from the original area West Of The Catawba River. Of course that was the first Lincoln County. As I looked over my life and the things that I enjoyed that are now a part of History, I decided that I would attempt to put it all together so that perhaps some one might enjoy knowing what life was like from October 3, 1929 until the present. Due to my educational training I am attempting to put together all the available information on the Lutheran and German Reformed congregations which all began shortly after 1745, when Henry Weidner and the Sherrill family settled in this area. Neither Religious Group has a dependable publication of their History. Sorry, but that is the fact at present. I realize I can not cover it all but I will attempt to touch on the high spots when I publish the materials. As you can see, " My plate run-eth over" besides the fact that I assist my neighbors some who have no other family to turn to for simple chores. It dawned on me that much was being printed about the "Wine Making Industry" in the Yadkin River Valley. I thought that perhaps the persons with roots in the Catawba River valley might like to know that their ancestors also were interested in the Wine making during their days spent here.
It is time to pick Black Berries and before long grapes of all kinds will be getting ripe. I thought that some of you might like to "try your hand" at making wine just as you ancestors did in earlier years. At first I wondered what might be the results of my giving instructions for producing alcoholic beverage. That is why I thought I might need to not use the internet to send you the instructions. Then I made the decision that I am merely relating to you historical facts about what our ancestors did during their life.
Here is what you will need to make wine:
You will need a container large enough to hold the amount of fruit available. I have used the following: Blackberries, Cherries (pitted), muscadines, scuppernongs, James Grapes, Grapes in general. Only the flavor and taste is different with the different fruits. The fruit should be fully ripened.
Your container in which you plan to make your wine must be earthen or stoneware. If you do not have such available I learned from another wine maker that you can purchase a glass jug to be used for a Terrarium which will hold about five gallons of liquid. A widow had me to clean out her basement and I found four glass containers, which had been used by her husband to produce wine. Sometimes you get lucky. Under no circumstances should you use a metal container.
Gather your fruit when fully ripened. A fruit such as cherries should be seeded before using. The seeds will make the juice very bitter. Crush your fruit. I find it is best to do this in small quantities. You need to do this where you can mop the floor when you finish because the juice will end-up on you and the floor. Wear old clothes, stains may be very hard to remove. Put a clean cloth over the mouth of your container to keep out undesirable insects. Let stand for three full days. This is best in the basement without any air-conditioning involved. I have never had air-conditioning to deal with. This is the time when the fruit begins to ferment.
After the three days use a very strong piece of cloth without dye or other treatment so you can squeeze out all the liquid and then dispose of the pulp and hulls from the fruit. This will compost quickly in your compost pile. Create Great food for your plants. I suggest you cover it with a layer of dirt.
Now you must measure your fruit juice in order to add sugar to the mixture. My family has always added one cup of sugar to two cups of Juice. (After you make some wine you may wish to experiment with more or less sugar. Remember you must use some sugar or it may not ferment. As you probably know, with apples you get vinegar without the sugar.)
Put the fruit juice along with the sugar back into the large container, which you washed out after removing the original mashed fruit. This begins the second fermenting period, which will be nine (9) days. Again put a cloth over the mouth of the container of juice and sugar. Each morning you must remove the cloth, and with your hand skim off anything that floats to the top of the liquid. If a little pulp managed to get through your strainer it will come to the top and can be skimmed off during this period. At the end of this period your wine is ready to be placed in CLEAN containers to be stored for future use.
REMEMBER: THIS IS POWERFUL STUFF. I KNOW FROM EXPERIENCE. I HAD EIGHT QUARTS OF WINE IN WINE BOTTLES WHICH I HAD FOUND AND SAVED FOR STORING MY WINE. WHEN THE WINE WAS FINISHED I FILLED THE BOTTLES AND SCREWED THE LIDS ON TIGHT. THE NEXT TIME I WENT INTO THE BASEMENT TO CHECK ON MY WINE I FOUND A PILE OF GLASS AND ONLY ONE BOTTLE OF WINE. THE SEALED BOTTLES HAD EXPLODED. THE ONE THAT DID NOT EXPLODE HAD A HOLE RUSTED IN THE TOP OF THE CAP. THAT WAS MY FIRST AND LAST EXPLOSION.
Real, good wine you will notice has a cork in the top of the bottle. You can put your new wine in a bottle and then place a cork lightly in the neck of the bottle. The wine will breathe as long as necessary and then when the process if completed it will then pull the cork into the bottle and seal the process.
I have learned a much less expensive way to store wine and very convenient. I use regular mason canning quart jars. I purchase new lids and rings. With these lids I have no trouble with acid. After filling the jar with wine I put the cap on the jar and then put the ring on the jar, leaving it loose so the lid can let off any fumes that need to escape. When it finishes that process it will then suck (pull) the lid back down and the jar is sealed. You can check the lid by touching it with your finger. It will be pulled down if the process is completed and you can then tighten the jar ring. I have James grape wine, which is very good that was placed in jars like this in 1995, it is now 10 years old. Stop by sometime when you are in the area and you can taste it, not much if you are driving.
If there is anything that you do not understand don't hesitate to ask questions. Be sure to let me know how your first batch of wine turns out. I think it is simple but I must remember I have been working with it for over 50 years. Sometimes I dont remember that. Contributions to my publishing fund will be graciously accepted.
1729 Brentwood Drive
Newton, N.C. 28658
Enjoy learning more about North Carolina Wineries
Waldensian Heritage Wines
Chiff Winery List
NC Winery Tour
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Derick S. Hartshorn - ©2008-present